Brain Activity Is Inherited

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Every person has a distinct pattern of functional brain connectivity known as a connectotype, or brain fingerprint. While individually unique, each connectotype demonstrates both familial and heritable relationships.

“Similar to DNA, specific brain systems and connectivity patterns are passed down from adults to their children,” reveals a new study conducted at OHSU in Portland, Oregon.  The results published today in Network Neuroscience. “This is significant because it may help us to better characterize aspects of altered brain activity, development or disease.”

Using two data sets of functional MRI brain scans from more than 350 adult and child siblings during resting state, the researchers applied an innovative technique to characterize functional connectivity and machine learning to successfully identify siblings based on their connectotype.

Through a similar process, the team also distinguished individual sibling and twin pairs from unrelated pairs in both children and adults.

This confirms that while unique to each individual, some aspects of the family connectome are inherited and maintained throughout development and may be useful as early biomarkers of mental or neurological conditions.

Overall, the connectotype demonstrated heritability within five brain systems, the most prominent being the frontoparietal cortex, or the part of the brain that filters incoming information. The dorsal attention and default systems, important for attention or focus and internal mental thoughts or rumination, respectively, also showed significant occurrences.

The study’s findings add to the way we think about normal and altered brain function. Further, it creates more opportunity for personalized and targeted treatment approaches for conditions such as ADHD or autism.

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